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Umar Zameer reacts during a news conference following his not guilty verdict, in Toronto, on April 21.Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press

A man accused of fatally running over a Toronto police officer sobbed with relief on Sunday after a jury found him not guilty in the officer’s death.

Umar Zameer and his family members burst into tears when the verdict was read out on the fourth day of jury deliberations. He had pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Detective Constable Jeffrey Northrup, who died on July 2, 2021, after he was hit by a vehicle in an underground parking garage at Toronto City Hall.

Toronto Police Chief Myron Demkiw was seen hugging Det. Constable Northrop’s widow after the verdict was announced.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Anne Molloy addressed Mr. Zameer briefly before exiting the courtroom, offering “my deepest apologies for what you’ve been through.”

The fact that Mr. Zameer ran over Det. Constable Northrup and caused his death was not disputed during the trial. Rather, the case centred on whether Mr. Zameer meant to hit Det. Constable Northrup – or even knew it happened – and whether he knew Det. Constable Northrup and his partner were police officers.

In her final instructions to jurors on Thursday, Justice Molloy said there were four possible verdicts based on the evidence: first-degree murder, second-degree murder, manslaughter, or not guilty of any offence.

The trial has heard Det. Constable Northrup and his partner, both plain clothes officers, approached Mr. Zameer’s car shortly after midnight as they were investigating a stabbing. Mr. Zameer was not involved in that stabbing.

Det. Constable Northrup’s partner, Det. Constable Lisa Forbes, testified the two of them walked over while Mr. Zameer was still outside the car, and she repeatedly identified herself as an officer. She said she started yelling and banging on the car after it lurched forward.

An unmarked police van with tinted windows blocked the car’s path, and court has heard Mr. Zameer reversed, angled the car back, then accelerated down the garage laneway, running over Det. Constable Northrup. He was arrested shortly after the unmarked van rammed into his car at the exit gate.

Det. Constable Forbes and the two officers who were in the van testified that Det. Constable Northrup was standing in the laneway with his hands outstretched when Mr. Zameer drove directly at him. The officers in the van, constables Antonio Correa and Scharnil Pais, said Det. Constable Northrup fell on the hood and then to the ground and under the wheels.

Mr. Zameer testified he was in the car with his eight-months-pregnant wife and their two-year-old son when two strangers, a man and a woman, rushed over. He said he locked the doors and the pair started yelling and banging on the car. Mr. Zameer said he thought his family was being attacked and he drove forward to get away.

He told the court he was even more alarmed when the van blocked his exit, and he decided to reverse quickly to get away. Mr. Zameer said he looked back while reversing and in front when moving forward and never saw anything or anyone in the way.

Both he and his wife testified they thought they had gone over a speed bump and didn’t realize they had hit a person until after Mr. Zameer’s arrest.

Two crash reconstruction experts told the court they concluded that Northrup fell after the car made glancing contact with him while reversing, and was on the ground when he was run over. Both found there was no damage or dust disturbance on the car that would indicate someone had been hit head-on.

Barry Raftery, the crash reconstructionist called by the defence, also testified Northrup would have been in the car’s blind zone and not visible to Mr. Zameer when on the ground.

Security video from the garage shows an unidentified object believed to be Det. Constable Northrup’s body appearing on the ground in front of the car as it is moving forward down the laneway. Det. Constable Northrup cannot be seen at any other point in the video.

The camera’s view is obstructed by a pillar on the left, meaning the initial parts of the encounter cannot be seen. However, it has a clear view of the laneway where the officers said Northrup was standing.

Mr. Raftery said the sudden appearance of Det. Constable Northrup’s body in the video suggests he was dragged or pushed under the car from behind the pillar until he came into view of the camera.

In their closing submissions, Crown prosecutors argued the officers were wrong about where Northrup was hit, but correct that he was standing. They argued the collision took place behind the pillar, out of view of the camera.

The trial judge told jurors it was her opinion there was no evidence that fully supported the Crown’s theory that Det. Constable Northrup was hit standing behind the pillar.

On the other hand, she said, the defence’s theory was consistent with the testimony of Mr. Zameer and his wife, both experts and the security video.

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